Madison County sales tax increase fails for third time

For a third time, Madison County voters have said they don’t want a sales tax increase to help schools pay for building projects.

According to unofficial results, 65 percent of voters rejected the proposal in Tuesday’s primary election.

It failed in 2011 by more than 80 percent and in 2017 by less than 250 votes.

The proposal was to increase the rates across the county by 1 percentage point, or an extra penny per dollar. It would have added an estimated $23.4 million each year for schools.

Madison County Citizens for Sustainable Education was the group campaigning against the increase. It argued that the sales tax rate in a special business district of Granite City would have been higher than Chicago’s Cook County if the proposal passed.

Nancy Moss, the spokesperson for the opposition group, submitted a written statement on Tuesday night:

“This is a major victory for families, businesses and jobs in Madison County. It was an intense and successful grassroots effort. The voters have spoken three times now, and it would be very disappointing if it is placed on the ballot again.”

Moss previously served on the Collinsville City Council.

Granite City District 9 Superintendent Jim Greenwald said school leaders were optimistic going into the 2018 election because of the narrow margin a year earlier.

“This year’s results after coming so close last year just shows that people change their minds,” he said.

Greenwald couldn’t say on Tuesday whether the schools would try again.

Outside of state and federal money, Greenwald said public school districts don’t have many opportunities to find additional revenue. But he said people have shown that they are against tax increases, including a proposed property tax increase that failed in Granite City a few years ago.

“The voters have spoken, and we just have to move forward,” Greenwald said.

The most pressing issue in District 9 is safety at the high school, according to the superintendent. Without the sales tax money, he said the district will address it by looking at security improvements that won’t cost much.

“We have to be creative,” he said.

Here are the unofficial results on the 2018 sales tax referendum in Madison County:

With 225 of 225 precincts reporting,

No: 27,523 votes

Yes: 14,966 votes

Elsewhere in the metro-east, St. Clair County voters have also rejected a proposed sales tax increase for schools in 2017.

Voters in Randolph County approved a sales tax proposal in 2015 after two tries. In Monroe County, voters approved it the first time it appeared on their ballots in 2016.